The week closed on a down note with investors sending Washington a reminder Friday that Wall Street is a power player in talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff." Stocks fell sharply after House Republicans called off a vote on tax rates and left federal budget talks in disarray 10 days before sweeping tax increases and government spending cuts are scheduled to take effect. The Dow lost 121 points to close at 13, 191. The stock market closes early today at 1 p.m. (Eastern) and is closed tomorrow for the Christmas holiday.
- Financial markets are largely steady in holiday-thinned trading today. Asian markets closed up slightly. Most markets across Europe are only open for half a day and will re-open Thursday. There's also holiday-shortened trading on Wall Street, which is poised for more marked falls. Both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures are down 0.4 percent.
- Oil prices fell today. Benchmark oil for February delivery fell 10 cents to $88.56 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.47 Friday to finish at $88.66 per barrel in New York, the contract's lowest point in three weeks. It dropped to $87.96 per barrel at one point Friday. Oil prices tend to drop when a major world economy is threatened by a downturn, like the looming "fiscal cliff," which more often than not leads to reduced demand for energy.
- Some analysts are saying that shoppers seem to be spending less leading up to Christmas Day. The market research NPD Inc., says consumer traffic over the weekend was in line with the same time a year ago, but shoppers seemed to be holding onto their wallets a little tighter. The Saturday before Christmas was expected to be the second biggest sales day behind the Friday after Thanksgiving. But the firm ShopperTrak has even cut its forecast for holiday spending to 2.5 percent growth, down from 3.3 percent.
- This week's economic reports are focused on the housing market. Coming off the Christmas holiday, Standard & Poor's releases the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates followed by the Commerce Department releasing new home sales figures for November. The National Association of Realtors releases the pending home sales index for November on Friday.